The Philippine foreign chief on Wednesday called the former U.S. ambassador to Manila "a dismal failure" over her leaked comments criticizing the country's democracy icon Corazon Aquino, a rare public rebuke against one of Manila's strongest allies.
A 2009 U.S. Embassy cable from online whistle-blower WikiLeaks that was published in Philippine newspapers quoted former Ambassador Kristie Kenney as saying Aquino's credibility as a moral crusader was tarnished because she associated herself with ousted President Joseph Estrada in protest movements against then-leader Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Aquino, the mother of current President Benigno Aquino III, died of cancer in 2009.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told The Associated Press that unlike her predecessors, Kenney was "a dismal failure in helping the Filipinos defend our democracy."
"Kristie Kenney's criticism of our champion of democracy was most unfortunate," del Rosario said in a text message from Beijing, where he was accompanying Aquino on a state visit to China.
He said that Kenney, who is now the American ambassador to Thailand, was well-traveled in the Philippines and "was extremely sociable." But, he added, "it would seem that she preferred instead to be favorably looked upon" by Arroyo's administration.
Former President Aquino, whose "people power" revolt in 1986 ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos and restored democracy in the Philippines after 20 years of his iron-fist rule, is held in high esteem by most Filipinos.
U.S. embassies worldwide have routinely refused to comment on leaked diplomatic cables.
Asked for reaction by one of her Filipino followers on Twitter, Kenney tweeted Wednesday: "Good morning! Don't believe all you read." She did not elaborate.
The 2009 cable purportedly penned by Kenney said that Aquino is revered as a hero for taking the reins of power at a difficult moment in Philippine politics.
But Kenney also noted that Aquino's falling out with and antipathy toward Arroyo "led her to ally with more dubious political figures such as President Estrada, blemishing her reputation as a moral crusader."
Estrada was toppled on corruption allegations in 2001, halfway through his term, and Arroyo succeeded him as his separately elected vice president.
Her own term was thrown into doubt in 2004 by allegations of electoral cheating that led to widespread protests and several coup attempts. Arroyo, who stepped down last year, has denied the charges against her, including those linking her family and close allies to several corruption scandals.
Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.